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Grassroots Wisdom Book

Widow Outreach Project

Valentine’s Day: a day dedicated to the celebration of love. What’s not to . . . well . . . love about a holiday focused on the esteem we hold for those closest to us? For widows, individuals suffering the loss of loved ones, or those estranged from families, holidays like Valentine’s Day can be difficult. Grief over the loss of loved ones and close relationships can leave survivors feeling lonely and overwhelmed by the widespread focus on celebrating love and family during Valentine’s Day and other holidays. 

Enter the Widow Outreach Project. Started in 2021 by Ashley Manning, owner of Pretty Things by A.E. Manning in Charlotte, NC., Widow Outreach Project seeks to share Valentine’s Day love, one floral bouquet at a time, with widows and widowers who have no partner to dote upon them during this celebration of love. Manning shares, in an article in the Charlotte Observer by Théoden Janes, that the concept came to her in 2020 as a response to COVID-era loss and loneliness. She made bouquets for a handful of widows in her church and started to think about the potential to spread more love to more widows in her community, thinking, “Is there something I’m gonna do in this world that’s greater than just this?” 

As an owner of a local flower shop, she tested the waters by asking patrons for an extra $5 on their Valentine’s Day orders, which she would double and add to a pool of money for bouquets for widows. Many people, when posed with this offer, donated a full bouquet! In 2021, Manning and her volunteers delivered flowers to 119 widows, 13,000 stems of flowers found themselves in the hands of widows in 2022, and she made 800 deliveries in 2023. Donations rose from $22,000 in 2022 to about $70,000 in both 2023 and 2024. The Widow Outreach Project caught the attention of the Today Show, People magazine, Good Morning America, USA Today, AARP, and, as a major donor to the project, actor Jamie Lee Curtis. Since its start in 2021, the Widow Outreach Project has now spread to Pittsburgh, PA (roughly 300 deliveries in 2024), the Minneapolis, MN metro area (about 150 deliveries this year) and is now gaining interest in Nashville, TN, Buffalo, NY, Spokane, WA, Cincinnati, OH, and The Woodlands, TX. How lovely and loving! 

Do you have the connections or ability to start a Widow Outreach Project in your community? What preparations could you make to bring bouquets to local widows and widowers next Valentine’s Day? Are there similar possibilities for other holidays, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or other family-centered holidays? For more inspiration and information on the project, see the Pretty Things by A.E. Manning webpage on the Widow Outreach Project.



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